Every week, in Victoria nearly 60 children and young people are removed from their parents by the State and placed in the care of another person or organisation because there are sound reasons to believe they are at risk of significant harm. What is that saying about the state of our system at the moment?
We have now seen the Report from Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry. I acknowledge the dedicated work by Honourable Philip Cummins (Chair), Emeritus Professor Dorothy Scott OAM and Mr Bill Scales AO on the year long Report that was commissioned by the Baillieu Government after being elected on a platform to reform child protection.
The sector as a whole, has been advocating for years for changes to a system that is already severely under pressure. The Report acknowledges the challenges ahead suggesting the need for a whole of government approach and a Vulnerable Children and Families Strategy lead by Premier and Cabinet.
The Report provides a strong case for the substantial changes required to improve services and systems providing better outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and families.
So, what is the case?
- The Report states that people across Victoria felt so concerned about the welfare of children that they made about 55,000 reports to the Victorian Department of Human Services in 2010–2011. Of the 55,000 reports, nearly 14,000 were considered sufficiently serious that they were formally investigated.
- Funding does not meet demand and services struggle to adequately support those that need it.
- There isn’t wide enough recognition of the important role played by a collective responsibility or what real family strengthening, early intervention programs and services can offer in terms of preventing abuse and creating safe and nurtured living.
These are simply three dot points. The Report has ninety recommendations and the case is strong for substantial changes to the system.
I was taken by parts of the Report that established the case for us to be collectively working to prevent child abuse and neglect and for us to be working where we can at real early intervention. There’s a need to link into established structures and work together to ensure that we can be supporting vulnerable members of our community.
We must invest in family support. As a community, we must accept our collective responsibility to ensure all children feel safe and parents are supported in times of need.
As a community, including parents, we have a responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment for children. We need to move to a focus on family strengthening, early intervention programs and services working in partnership with other community members to ensure we are working to prevent child abuse and neglect.
And for those that want this quantified, the Report prepared by Deloitte Access Economics, indicate that the “total lifetime financial costs of child abuse and neglect that occurred in Victoria…in 2009-2010 is between $1.6 and $1.9 billion.”
In 2010-2011, of the reports about the welfare of children to the Victorian Department of Human Services in 7,600 of the cases, concerns about the safety or welfare of these children were well founded.
The cost is great, the impact is profound. This is clearly unacceptable. So, as a family services organisation we stand ready and committed to working in collaboration with the government to ensure better outcomes.
Collectively we can do this. The case is strong: we must see substantial changes to ensure that we create the sort of society that supports vulnerable children, young people and families and makes a real and lasting difference in their lives.
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